With Week 1 of the 2015 NFL season finally in the books we can all sit back and start looking for sleeping free agents. No matter how good or bad your team did it's still only the first week so don't panic. Play smart and keep reading because we've got some sleepers for you to use in week 2. But simply grabbing the top Week 1 free agents isn't a sound strategy. Last year, these guys finished in the top 5 in TD receptions for week 1, 2014.
- Allen Hurns - 4 rec for 100 yards and 2 TDs in 2014 Week 1, nothing after that.
- Vernon Davis - 4 rec for 44 yards and 2 TDs in 2014's Week 1 as well, also fell completely off the map right after.
What can we learn from just the slightest glance at basic numbers from Seasons past?
That you don't go running for the Waiver Wire, burning claims and bench players that you just drafted on a totally unproven player just because he had a great 1st week.
There's a method to it. Terrance Williams and James Jones were top movers this week in the fantasy world after what went down in Week 1 as well they should be. Both players are talented individuals about to get a serious bump in quality targets due to teammate injury. But Chris Johnson and Dion Lewis were also big movers this week and I'll go out on a limb and say that neither of those guys will be on your roster come Week 4 unless your in a deeper league or have lots of bench space.
You won't find a list of obvious or "safe" sleepers in this article. Instead you'll find a group of players with a very high ceiling but there is a flip side to every coin. Based on analyzing offensive tendencies, number of targets, red zone attempts/targets and current opponent weaknesses I've compiled the following list of players who are most likely to break out and have a big Week 2.
RB Benny Cunningham, St. Louis Rams
When some teams (cough cough Patriots) cart out an RB from their stable to some degree of success I don't really pay attention. The Pats have a thing about never giving the ball to the same RB twice so to hell with em'. But when Jeff Fischer does it I get excited. Until Tre Mason and Todd Gurley can get back on the field in a capacity that pleases the head coach, Cunningham is the guy. With 16 carries in Week 1 against a stout Seahawks D the St. Louis RB is battle tested and has the coaches trust. Cunningham was also targeted 8 times in Week 1, catching 5 of those passes for you PPR players. Fischer also called Cunninghams name twice in the Red Zone and this week he faces a team in the Redskins who looked inept on offense in Week 1. I expect the Rams D to have their way with Kirk Cousins and for the St. Louis coaching staff to call Cunninghams number plenty of times in this one.
RB Jonathan Stewart, Carolina Panthers
It seems like we've been waiting an eternity for Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams to be pulled apart. Well it's finally happened and both are actually good plays this week, although I don't think we can call Williams a sleeper. Stewarts value on the other hand isn't so obvious. I'll say it right off the bat, I think Stewart is a good player to stash away this season, even if he doesn't get it done week to week. One encouraging sign though is that the Panthers coaching staff gave Stewart four Red Zone carries in Week 1. He didn't run any in for a TD but 4 Red Zone carries is a lot, Top 5 in Week 1 actually and sometimes fantasy football is all about maximizing potential while also trying to limit risk. Jonathan Stewart and his 18 Week 1 carries against the "in-transition" Houston Texans might be a rewarding play if your looking for an RB2 or Flex fill in.
RB Lance Dunbar, Dallas Cowboys PPR ONLY
I'll be short and sweet with this one, Dunbar was targeted nine times in Week 1 by Tony Romo and he caught them all. The Cowboys are going to be playing in some high scoring games over the next month and they'll be doing so without Dez Bryant. That means that anybody with reliable hands who can wear a helmet is going to get a healthy number of looks. If you've got room on your bench grab Dunbar and play him if your in need.
RB Darren Sproles, Philadelphia Eagles
I don't know how Sproles is only owned in 65% of ESPN leagues. The guy is on a Chip Kelley offense and you may think Kelley is crazy and it may be true but the fact remains that he loves to get Darren Sproles the ball. Certainly Sproles must be owned in PPR formats, ignore that at your own risk. But he has real value as an RB2 in a league that just doesn't have that many RB2s anymore. Sproles ran the ball five times for 50 yards in Week 1 and was targeted nine times out of the backfield, seven of which he caught en route to amassing 12 standard fantasy points. Sproles has always been a tricky player and now he plays with a tricky coach.
TE Jordan Reed, Washington Redskins
Tyler Eifert, Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Ladarius Green are getting all the love but ignore Jordan Reed at your own peril. When the guys healthy he gets targets. When he gets targets he scores. Since his debut, when Reed averages nine or more targets in a game he averages 12.4 PPG. It looks like the Redskins coaching staff is just gonna let Kirk Cousins throw the ball until he either gets better at it or digs a grave for himself, either way benefits Reed. Expect a lot of running in this game but TEs are hard to come by and Reed has the potential to hit between 8-10 points.
WR Donte Moncrief, Indianapolis Colts
Pretty surprised that Moncriefs ownership has only increased by 14% in ESPN leagues given that Andrew Luck targeted the WR 11 times in Week 1, twice in the Red Zone. And that was in game where Luck never felt comfortable and was constantly playing from behind. I expect much of the same this week when the Colts face a similar defense in the NY Jets but after that the Colts go on a five week stretch of facing teams with less than stellar secondaries. Pick up Moncrief this week and play him because of the injuries to the Colts WR corp and Lucks obvious penchant for the guy but make sure you hold on to him as well.
WR Brandon Coleman, New Orleans Saints
Of the five players Drew Brees targeted in the Red Zone Coleman was the only player to make the play and score the TD. If you've been watching Brees play throughout his career then you know that he tends to favor guys who can make the play no matter where they on the depth chart. At this point its Brandin Cooks and everyone else for the Saints and Bradon Coleman has a legitimate shot to step into the WR2 role for Brees and the struggling Saints. The Saints aren't very good again it looks like but as long as Sean Peyton and Drew Brees are there they are going to throw throw throw. Colemans only owned in 23.8% of ESPN leagues and has a nice matchup this week against a Bucs team that made Kendall Wright and Marcus Mariota look like Manning and Harrison.
WR Jermaine Kearse, Seattle Seahawks
10 total targets in a close Week 1 game is a way of saying We Trust You to Jermaine Kearse. But having three of those targets come in the Red Zone is a way of saying We Like You. Kearse was a very diverse player in Week 1, seeing passes on 1st down, 3rd down, passes in the Red Zone, passes over the middle....you get it. This week the Seahawks get the Packers and while Aaron Rodgers looked sharp in Week 1 these games are always close and the Packers receiving corps still has no true identity. I'm looking for the Seahawks to come out a make a statement this week and I think Kearse is a part of that but he's more of a risk outside of PPR because proven veterans tend to take over in games like these and I'm sure Pete Carroll wants to get Jimmy Graham more involved ASAP so don't give up hope on Kearse just temper expectations this week in standard leagues.
DOUBLE BONUS - DeAndre Hopkins, Houston Texans
Hopkins isn't available in your league he's my double bonus player of the week. 13 total targets in Week 1, crazy. Not even playing with two QBs could slow him down. Hopkins saw four of those targets come in the Red Zone and hauling two of them in for TDs en route to a great fantasy day. If your looking for a WR to pick up in a trade then try for Hopkins before he becomes a house hold name. Against a weak Carolina secondary in Week 2 Hopkins is a Top 5 WR in PPR and Standard leagues.
DESPERATION PLAY - Jonathan Grimes, Houston Texans
Grimes got to run the rock six times in Week 1 and with the RB situation the way it is in Houston who the hell knows whats going to happen? What entices me most about Grimes is that he got two Red Zone carries in Week 1 and one Red Zone target. Sounds like a guy the coaching staff is looking to sneak into the end zone once they get down there so if your truly desperate or maybe your just a little crazy then Grimes is your guy.